Clover manga

30 03 2010

Clover 3.5/5

When does manga cease to be pop art and start to be fine art? When is something more likely to be remembered for its presentation than its story? When you read CLAMP’s manga, Clover, that’s when. With a story that is largely throwaway, but an artistic style that propels it to the top tier of its medium, Clover is likely to be remembered as beautiful but vacuous. Join me, Panda Masamune, as I explore this unique piece of work

Title: Clover

Author: CLAMP

Publisher: Kodansha (Japan), Dark Horse (US)

Medium: Manga, Sequential Art

Number of Volumes: Originally 4, now sold only as 1

Genres: Shojo, Romance, Artistic

Availability: This title is still widely available in bookstores and can always be ordered online. Depending on your library, you may be able to find a copy there too.

Production Note: Clover was slated as a 6-volume project, but it was cut down to 4 because of high production costs. This should not deter people from reading it though, as the main story ends at the end of the second volume, and the rest of the volumes are prequels following each character. So you will still get the full story.


Kazuhiko is contacted by a mercenary organization for one last job, even though he is retired. His job is to transport a mysterious girl named Sue to a place of her choosing. However, Sue’s existence is considered top secret by the government, so they pursue the two relentlessly.

Sue is a CLOVER—a person with psychic abilities. Clovers are ranked from 1 to 4 leaves, depending on their strength. Most fall into the 1-leaf category, and only three 3-leaves exist. Sue, however, is a 4-leaf, whose existence is assumed to be a myth. Because of that, she has been locked up her whole life.

This changes when she hears the music of a woman named Ora, who is consequently a 1-leaf. The two form a friendship, despite the fact that they have never seen each other. Ora tells of her boyfriend, Kazuhiko, and Sue learns to trust him because of Ora. After Ora dies, Sue requests to be taken to an unspecified place and asserts that Kazuhiko is the only one who can take her there. The main story is about the flight of Kazuhiko and Sue, and the last two chapters are about the characters met on that flight.

Review: 3.5/5

First, let me say that you will probably need to read Clover twice in order to get it. Read volumes 1-4 straight through, despite the fact that you won’t understand anything that is going on. Then, when you have read the background stories in volumes 3 & 4, go back and read volumes 1 & 2 to gain understanding of the story.

Now, let’s get to the review.

First, this manga is beautiful. In fact, I don’t think “manga” is the right term to describe it. I think that “sequential art” is a better way. If you read it like a typical manga, you might not get what is going on. It is more helpful to look at each page as a stand-alone work of art, and to have those pieces of art sequentially put together in order to tell a story. Look at a few example pages and you will see what I mean.  It doesn’t even look like manga.

The story, however, is not as good as its art. At the end of the manga, I found all of the characters interesting, but largely throwaway. They are more archetypes than they are characters. The story is mildly interesting, and it is a testament to the art that I was drawn into it and touched by it in the end. However, I find that my true impression of a story is what is left after going away from the story for a few weeks, which is what I did for this one. And after a few weeks, I found that it was a very memorable story, but it didn’t make any emotional impression on me. And I think that feeling will only get worse with time.

Because of that, I give Clover an overall 3.5/5. It is enjoyable, and you will love it while you are reading it, but that feeling won’t last after you put the book down.


– Loneliness

– Fear of the Unknown

– Ostracizing Gifted People

– Self-Sacrifice

Bridging Nerd-dom and Life

Like any piece of fine art, the themes of Clover aren’t there at the surface, and even when you dig for them, they are not apparent. Just like a fine painting will mean many different things to many different people, I can imagine two different people reading Clover and coming up with two different sets of themes.

This does not lend itself well to building bridges between nerd-dom and life.

As far as I can tell, Clover is a manga about fearing what you don’t know. Sue is incredibly powerful, thus, people fear her. She would never hurt anyone though, and uses her gift (being able to tune into any sound, no matter how small or how far away) to deal with her loneliness. Sue is not bent on gaining power; she simply wants what all humans need—contact with other humans. She doesn’t find it odd that she is locked up or that her powers are suppressed. She just wants to love and be loved in return.

I see in this the same root feeling that leads to most freedoms being taken away: fear. We are so afraid of what might happen that we take preventative measures in order to make sure that nothing bad ever will happen. And in the process, we enslave ourselves. An easy example is the current state of airline security. I have the incredibly bad luck of always making trans-continental flights while I am sick. Personally, I would like to bring about four liters of water with me on those flights, but even a 500mL bottle is confiscated at the gate. Why? Because I might be storing fluids to make a bomb. Even though I am perfectly happy to drink it in front of them… grumble grumble…. Anyway, that is what I call living in a state of fear. Americans are particularly prone to this, with our warning signs and handrails everywhere, but the same feeling exists everywhere.  It only leads to madness in the end.

I believe that true freedom is contained in trust… trust that even if someone has power to harm others, they won’t use it. Now, I know that that is an ideal and not necessarily attainable, but I believe it to be true. And I believe that the key to this is love. A wise man once said, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” In this story, it is Sue’s love for Ora and Kazuhiko that causes her to use her power well, and it is love for each other that will start attacking that root of fear that has burrowed into our cultures.



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